President Cyril Ramaphosa has much to weigh up when deciding on his Cabinet, such as racial diversity, gender parity, skills and expertise, says the writer. Picture: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency (ANA)
President Cyril Ramaphosa has much to weigh up when deciding on his Cabinet, such as racial diversity, gender parity, skills and expertise, says the writer. Picture: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency (ANA)

How to stock the Cabinet

By Zahir Amien Time of article published May 25, 2019

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Now that the dust has settled on what has been a robust election campaign which produced a credible, free and fair election, President Cyril Ramaphosa is about to finish the challenge of naming a Cabinet that will reflect the rainbow face of South Africa.

The president is expected to announce his Cabinet after his inauguration in Tshwane May 25. Unlike the Cabinet that he named when he became president after Jacob Zuma’s resignation, the 2019 Cabinet model will be unveiled on the back of a powerful mandate by the electorate through an overwhelming ANC parliamentary majority. Thus Ramaphosa’s personal brand will be found on this Cabinet.

However, the composition of the Cabinet and whom he appoints to serve in it will play a decisive role in enabling the president to achieve his electoral campaign promises of unity, cohesion and nation-building and inclusive socio-economic transformation.

He also pledged good governance including the fight against corruption, crime and capture as he criss-crossed the country as the face of the ANC campaign.

What then are the factors that the president will consider when considering his dream team Cabinet?

It would seem that most of the contextual considerations emanate from the governing party policy and historical practices. They include:

1.Gender parity. The ANC policy requires that at least 50% of the Cabinet be female. Since 2009, the make-up of the Cabinet has consistently complied with this principle and we can assume that this principle will again be adhered to.

2.Racial diversity. The ANC has always prided itself on being a non- racial party committed to building and uniting the nation along non-racial lines. Yet since the Cabinet of Nelson Mandela, each election has seen fewer coloureds, Indians and whites represented in the Cabinet.

Ramaphosa has, however, consistently pronounced that he wishes to take the ANC back to its values of non-racialism. Thus, it is expected that the starting point should be to increase the racial make-up of the Cabinet to ensure that it is broadly inclusive of the racial demographics of the country.

Today whites, coloureds and Indians represent about 21% of the total population (9% white, 10% coloured and 2% Indian). Thus, if we assume that the Cabinet inclusive of the president and deputy president is 25, there should be at least five members that come from these groups: two whites, two coloureds and one Indian.

The same should apply “mutatis mutandis” to the deputy ministers.

3.Geography and regionalism. The president will in all likelihood try to ensure that Cabinet members come from most, if not all nine provinces. Linked to this, the proportion will in all likelihood be based on existing ANC voters’ support from each of these provinces.

4.Ethnicity. Given our historical legacy of colonialism and apartheid, and the attempts to divide our nation ethnically and address the inherent tension of tribalism and ethnicity, it has been an historical practice by previous ANC presidents to ensure that all or most of the key ethnic groups are represented in the Cabinet.

5.Generational mix. Given that the majority of the adult population is youth between the ages of 18 and 35, it becomes important that a large percentage of the Cabinet is inclusive of the youth.

If the president wants to ensure that his government remains relevant it is important that he guards against including many members of the so-called 1976 generation (his peers) who are now in their sixties.

6.Skills and expertise. Given the complexity of our socio-economic, governance and developmental challenges vis-à-vis a rapidly changing world at every level, it is important that our Cabinet members have the necessary expertise and skills to lead the departments they are assigned to. The principle of qualified and experienced cadre deployment must apply.

7.The alliance and the leagues. The historical practice has always been that the Cabinet will include a few members of the SACP and at least one member nominated by Cosatu.

8.The Cabinet will also have to be inclusive of the pre-Nasrec caucuses and slates for unity and cohesion between the governing party and the state .

9.Finally, given the complexity of our economy with all our historical and current challenges, both structural as well as governance-related, the views of big business cannot be ignored particularly as they relate to the finance and economic sector, if we intend to grow an inclusive economy through trade and investment.

This sector must also be comfortable with our ministers in the economic cluster without them dictating to the president who it should be .

The president will have to strike a fine balance. We depend on him to get it right in his first Cabinet chosen by a president who has won a general election.

* Amien is a public servant, a social and political commentator and writes in his personal capacity.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

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